Morris steps up to head Chamber of Commerce
Morris hopes new events, excitement help boost membership
For the third year running, the Charles County Chamber of Commerce will have a businesswoman heading up its organization.
Like soon-to-be past-Chairwoman Billie Stachura, incoming Chair- woman Bonnie Morris is a longtime Charles County resident and business owner. Morris started Arrow American Pest and Termite Control in her La Plata home in 2002, moving the growing business to White Plains in 2009. Before her pest control career, she sold real estate.
Her earlier experience in real estate will come in handy in her new role as the chamber navigates the county’s new comprehensive plan and its expanded watershed conservation district which includes property downzoning. The plan has irritated business and property owners alike and is something Morris said the chamber will need to keep a close eye on as permit and zoning regulations develop.
“[The comprehensive plan] is going to affect a lot of businesses,” Morris said in an interview at her White Plains office this week. “That’s going to affect lots of people: people that don’t even know that they’re going to be affected. That’s a big one right now, and how it’s going to look, I don’t know.”
Along with the comprehensive plan, or maybe dovetailing with it, Morris said other county projects potentially affecting businesses are coming to fruition over the next couple of years, like the widening and revamping of Old Washington Road through Waldorf and oth- er such potential business interrupters.
“There’s a lot of stuff over the years that they’ve talked about and now some of it’s coming around, and some of it we still have more to talk about: the roads,” she said. “I have a business where some of my guys are on the roads all day. Some of these roads are terrible; I don’t know how you put school buses and stuff on them. It’s a concern.”
The Western Parkway completion also makes the list, something the county commissioners recently defunded, pushing it further down the road: “It’s frustrating.”
While Morris plans to keep on top of things the county is doing in way of supporting and growing businesses, there are other, less political goals, such as hosting the first chamber Women’s Fair, organizing a business expo, continuing the work of helping the Town of Indian Head recover from years of neglect and work on growing the chamber’s membership beyond the 600 or so current members.
The new Women’s Fair is scheduled for March 18 at the College of Southern Mar yland and will include speakers, women’s health booths and business and financial planning advice for professional women in the county. A business expo for the fall is still in the early discussion phase.
“A couple people have talked of a business expo. I’m not sure what it’s going to look like yet, but that’s one of the things I’ll be talking with the board about — maybe doing a business expo in the fall,” she said.
Working on keeping and growing Naval Support Facility Indian Head, as well as the town, will continue to be a focus of the chamber, Morris said.
“We have a whole committee (Military Alliance Committee) based on making sure that Indian Head stays here,” she said. “That’s really import- ant.
“We need to help the town with the momentum that they need to get the businesses there that they’re going to need,” she added. “They need a lot of stuff up there right now.”
Like Billie Stachura last January, Morris is also coming into the post with an eye toward growing membership.
“I think the best way to grow membership is to get the excitement going — get people involved,” Morris said. “And we’re getting a lot of new businesses [in the county]. I just got a text from a new business in La Plata; she had a question about filling out the application.”
Morris, born and raised in Delaware, has lived in the county for nearly 40 years with her husband, Dickie, whom she met on the Eastern Shore. The couple has two adult children and four grandchildren.
Along with her growing business — she’s looking to hire more technicians soon — Morris is also on the board of the Humane Society of Charles County and is heavily involved with the Southern Maryland Business Network, which meets 8 to 9:30 a.m. every Tuesday at the Legends Club at Regency Furniture Stadium.
“It’ll be a fun year — a busy one. There’s a lot to do with the chamber, going to the meetings, getting to know the needs of the community and getting to meet people,” Morris said. “It will be busy.”
Stachura, looking back on her year heading up the chamber, said she was proud to have served and will continue to play a supportive role, especially shepherding what she called her biggest accomplishment: the Charles County pride program known as Charles County Proud.
“My biggest accomplishment is kicking off the Charles County Proud initiative,” Stachura said on Wednesday. “The month of October will forever be known as Charles County Proud Month.”
The chamber’s inaugural reception for Morris is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 27, at Middleton Hall. For tickets and to register, go to http://www. charlescountychamber. org/.
Bonnie Morris of La Plata, a White Plains business owner, is the new chairwoman of the Charles County Chamber of Commerce.